Celtics

Gordon Hayward eyes potential Celtics return Monday night vs. Cavaliers

Gordon Hayward eyes potential Celtics return Monday night vs. Cavaliers

BOSTON — Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said the fractured bone in his left hand has completely healed and acknowledged the possibility that he could return to action on Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Bone has healed, probably stronger than my right hand. There’s a plate in there with screws. The bone is good,” Hayward said Sunday after going through the team’s offday practice. Boston did not engage in any live 5-on-5 action but Hayward sounded open to returning Monday.

"Tomorrow’s a possibility,” he said. "See how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround, see how it goes.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’d let the training staff determine when Hayward was ready to return but also didn’t rule out Monday and noted, “he’s coming back sooner than later.”

The Celtics originally announced a 6-week return-to-action timeline for Hayward after he underwent surgery to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand on November 11. Hayward suffered the injury running into LaMarcus Aldridge on Nov. 9.

Hayward has ramped up activity over the past week and acknowledged that an earlier return seemed possibly recently.

"I mean you try to take it day-by-day. I think as it’s steadily improving and can do more and more, you start to think coming back a little bit earlier,” said Hayward. "I think you set the timeline a little bit later than what you’re hoping for just so that [the media] and everyone else isn’t like — if you’re late like, what’s the deal?”

Hayward stressed that, if the bone is fully healed, he’s at no real risk for reinjury without taking another shot.

"I can’t do anything that’s going to hurt it. I’m going to have to get hit equally as hard, probably more than last time, because I have the metal in my hand now,” said Hayward. "So the bone is healed. I can’t hurt it worse. It’s almost like playing through the pain, the tissues that I have in my hand, those are a lot slower to recover, so those are going to be sore a little bit. Motion and strength is going to take a little while to get back; it’s whether or not you can play through that and still be effective. That’s kind of what we’re determining but the bone is healed.”

Hayward said he does not expect to have the hardware in his hand removed unless it bothers him further down the road. He admitted he’s been cautious with the hand as he ramps up contact activities but doesn’t expect that to linger.

"It’s definitely something I’m still guarding and it’s going to be like that for a little while,” said Hayward. "That’s only natural. But part of that is getting out there and playing and getting over it mentally. I have gotten a hit [by an assistant coach], it reacted normally to that. The bone has healed and that’s the important part.”

A six-week return had Hayward looking at closer to a Christmas return. The Celtics play three games in four nights starting with Monday’s visit from the Cavaliers.

Boston is 9-4 without Hayward.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

The 2019 NBA offseason has ensured that Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker will always be connected. When Irving spurned the Celtics after two seasons with the team to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Walker joined the C's and took over as their starting point guard.

The two players are similarly great scorers. They can pass the ball well and set up teammates, too. And while Irving is regarded by many as the better player in terms of skill set, there are some intangible things that Walker brings to the floor and Irving doesn't: leadership and chemistry.

And Irving and Walker's recent postgame comments after losses demonstrate that.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

On the latest episode of The Celtics Talk Podcast, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely were discussing the recent postgame interviews that the two did after rough outings and bad losses for their respective squads.

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Irving was far more focused on improving the team around him as opposed to his own poor performance. And as Blakely pointed out, it speaks to one of Irving's weaknesses as a leader.

Kyrie has yet to figure out how to make those around him better so that he can be a better winner. He is a great player. He's one of the best players in the NBA. There's absolutely no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But he has yet to figure out how to elevate the players around him or carry himself with a level of humility that will ingratiate himself to his teammates who may not be as good as he is, but want to be great players nonetheless.

This completely juxtaposes Blakely's thoughts on Walker, who focused more on his poor performance and how he needs to play better for the sake of the team.

Kemba, flip-side of that, he didn't play great against Detroit. Was he the worst player? In the conversation, but he didn't play bad enough to where he was clear and undeniably the worst player on the floor.

And yet all he talked about in postgame was how he's got to be better. He's got to do a better job leading. It was me, me, me for the team, team, team. And that's something that you never hear from Kyrie.

Both Blakely and Draper acknowledged that they don't always like comparing the two to each other. But in this circumstance where their postgame pressers from similar games were polar opposites, they thought it had to be done.

It just about sums up why many Boston fans were happy to see Irving walk in the offseason. And Walker's positive attitude and ability to generate team chemistry has certainly been a breath of fresh air for the Celtics faithful.

For more on the Celtics game against the Bucks, their recent skid, expectations moving forward, and potential All-Stars from the team, check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, which drops weekly as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Did C's fool us into thinking they're better than they are?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Celtics Talk Podcast: Did C's fool us into thinking they're better than they are?

The Celtics have gone 17-12 since a 10-1 start. They're 4-5 in the new year and, after losing in Milwaukee on Thursday night, Boston is 7-8 against teams .500 or better.

On the latest Celtics Talk Podcast, it led Kyle Draper to ask our Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely, the inevitable question, Did a hot start make fans believe this team was better than it actually is?

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"We had the cookies on the bottom shelf in terms of expectations," was Blakely's response. "If they just did anything else other than get their heads handed to them early on [to start the season], we're like, hey, they're pretty good."

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What's behind the recent slide that seen the C's lose five of their past seven? Blakely says it's the defense. 

"When you really start looking at what's happening lately, that defense is getting exposed," Blakely said. "[Enes] Kanter has had a great season, but the law of averages says he's going to go through a stretch where he's just not going to get it done. Look at Jaylen Brown, he's had a great season, so has [Jayson] Tatum, but they're going to go through stretches where they're not getting it done. 

"The defense is not making the plays they need to that's why teams are shooting high 50's low 60's [percent] against them." 

Draper and Blakely also touch on the loss in Milwaukee and if the C's have enough to compete with the best in the East, another up-and-down season for Gordon Hayward ("We have been on this ride before," said Blakely. "Gordon [will] go out and has an 8-for-10 game. And people are going to be like, In Danny [Ainge] we trust, Gordon's great..."), Kyrie Irving's recent comments on his Nets teammates and more in the podcast, part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.